In recent years, we have seen unexpected natural disasters such as extreme weather, super typhoons, frequent earthquakes, and severe drought all over the world. Scientists agree that climate change has caused those abnormal catastrophes. Then what can we do for mitigating climate change? To answer this question, we need to know what the main factors are that generate climate change. According to the IPCC (Inter-governmental panel on climate change), emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) causes climate change, and it is known that the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major component of the GHGs. Then, what kinds of activities cause CO2 emissions? Among various activities, combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas is the most influential one that affects CO2 emission. Thus, it is very important to replace fossil fuels with renewable fuels (green energy) such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal etc. According to the REN21, about 18% of global final energy consumption in 2018 was supplied by green energy. However, the renewable share of Korea remains at less than 2%.
The present Korean government announced that nuclear as well as coal and petroleum fuels should be replaced by renewable energy and natural gas, so the renewable share in 2030 will increase up to 20%. In the future, solar PV (Photovoltaic) and wind power will become major sources of electricity supply in Korea.
But, there are pros and cons in raising the share of solar and wind power. For example, solar and wind power are affected by weather conditions, which makes it difficult to predict electricity supply. On the other hand, increases of solar and wind power cause negative externality such as light reflection, noise, and artificial landscape. Thirdly, electricity production costs of solar PV and wind power are higher than coal and nuclear based electricity costs. For these reasons, opponents claim that nuclear and coal based power plants should not be replaced with renewable energy.
As solutions to these problems, the Korean government has been subsidizing the installation of the energy storage system (ESS) to stabilize the variability of the electricity made from solar PV and wind powers, and tries to derive the local community’s investment on green energy projects. However, the government hesitates to increase the electricity tariff due to the higher electricity production costs of green energy. Because it is a concern that higher electricity costs can lead to higher overall consumer prices. What do you think of this argument? We need to remember that ‘there is no free lunch’, so endure those social costs if you want a ‘sustainable future for the next generation’ rather than ‘irreversible catastrophes’ due to climate change.
By Bae Jeong-hwan, Professor, Faculty of Economics
▲ Bae Jeong-hwan, Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics
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